By Rory I. Lancman
For more than four decades, Choices Women’s Medical Center has provided critical health care services to Queens residents. Choices is a woman-owned and operated medical facility that offers a wide range of services, including prenatal care, birth control, testing for sexually transmitted infections, behavioral health services and abortion.
Since Choices moved to downtown Jamaica five years ago, anti-choice protesters have persistently harassed and threatened Choices’ patients and staff, in the hopes of denying women access to lawful reproductive health services. This is unacceptable and a clear violation of the law. In fact, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit in June to prevent such aggressive conduct from taking place and to create a new buffer zone around the clinic.
The attorney general’s lawsuit was an important step toward ensuring that women in our community continue to have access to health care services without running a gauntlet of verbal abuse and sometimes even physical harassment. No person should be threatened just for seeking medical care and the safety of doctors, counselors, and volunteers should be protected. Nevertheless, the antagonistic protests, coupled with continued efforts on the federal level to roll back women’s health care, underscore the challenges Choices is facing.
Given the current political climate and the vital importance of women’s health care, I thought it was important for my colleagues in government to have the opportunity to learn more about Choices. Last week, I organized a legislative breakfast at Choices Women’s Medical Center to enable local leaders to hear directly from its founder, Merle Hoffman.
Merle has been on the front lines of the fight for reproductive rights for more than 40 years. She opened Choices Women’s Medical Center in 1971, shortly after New York state legalized abortion, and two years before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. To hear Merle tell it, in that time Choices has faced many obstacles, but its focus has always remained the same: to provide the best care possible to its patients.
All of us who attended the legislative breakfast could see that care and compassion on display. We met with Choices’ dedicated doctors and counselors, who detailed the vast array of services they provide for patients, the challenges they deal with every day, and the importance of empowerment and education. We also saw firsthand the state-of-the-art facility that is one of the largest women’s health centers in the country, currently serving more than 40,000 people every year.
In hosting this legislative breakfast, our goal was to send a message loud and clear: Women’s health care is a priority and will remain a priority. We will continue to advocate for Choices Women’s Medical Center and vocally oppose any effort to undermine women’s health care.
Rory I. Lancman
City Councilman (D-Hillcrest)